Denée Benton, 25, plays a lovelorn Russian aristocrat in the War and Peace–inspired musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. The show’s color-blind casting is fast becoming a hallmark of the Hamilton age. “It’s telling a universal story of love and loss and war and regret,” Benton says, “and I think because of that you can put any person of any shade in it.”
Eva Noblezada is only 21, yet she has already played Eponine in Les Misérables in London and now brings her clarion singing voice to the Broadway Theatre’s Miss Saigon. “I’ve learned how necessary it is to have someone like Denée expose the hidden talents of minority performers,” says Noblezada, who is of Filipino and Mexican descent. “We work our asses off to be seen on the same level as everyone else.”
Barrett Doss was all set to become a San Francisco cheesemonger six years ago, after a series of fruitless auditions. Then Thomas Bradshaw—in whose 2007 one-act Cleansed she had played a fourteen-year-old biracial skinhead—cast her in his play Burning. Now, at 28, she is making her Broadway-musical debut as Rita (played onscreen by Andie MacDowell) in the stage adaptation of Groundhog Day.
Laura Dreyfuss With heartbreaking tenderness, Dreyfuss, 28, plays a soulful high school student struggling in a relationship with the anxiety-ridden class geek (Ben Platt) in the musical Dear Evan Hansen. She has appeared on Broadway in Hair and Once and is best known as Madison McCarthy on Glee. “Glee and Evan Hansen are fundamentally the same idea: ‘Where do I belong?’ ” she says.